Scott Hanselman has a unique way to get people to visit him at TechED: Apprentice.net.
Over the past few months I've covered the fight between RSS 2.0 and Atom for the hearts and minds of developers.
I've totally been missing the boat.
There are several other far more serious fights coming in the syndication space. Here's the fights that are coming:
1) Full text, or just a small synopsis, in the "description" tag? Why is there a debate about this? Because some webloggers and content generators believe that readers will only visit their site if they don't put the full content in their feeds.
2) Designers vs. Readers. Some designers (and content producers) believe that they should force readers to view their content with the font that the designer picks, color scheme that the designer picks, along with branding (er, logos) and color/blinking advertisments. Conrad Agramont's feed, for instance, uses a different font from most of the other feeds I read.
3) What to call it? Some people don't like the name RSS. Others don't like the name Atom. Even Google is having trouble settling on one. Evan Williams today said Atom +is+ RSS. Hmmm. More confusion ahead. Other developers want to call it something else.
4) What to do with the XML orange icons. Some developers believe it's confusing when you click on an XML icon and get a bunch of XML code. So they want to put up a pretty HTML page that'll explain what RSS is.
So, what's my opinion?
On the first, you should ALWAYS include full text in the feed. Why? Because you'll get far less traffic if bloggers don't read you and don't link to you. We can send a ton of Google traffic your way (three links from "A list" bloggers will guarantee you first page appearances). The feed that does it worst? Microsoft's own Slate. I unsubscribed and will never visit their HTML (and, you never see me link to them, do you?)
On the second, feed producers should ALWAYS leave the reader in control. Please, no special fonts, no special colored backgrounds, no CSS, no branding. Thank you. Why? It's easier to read. Imagine if the New York Times put a different font on each article.
On the third, this would take care of itself if news aggregators had the ability to automatically sense whether or not there's a feed and present the choices to me in some sort of UI.
On the fourth, I hate it when webloggers don't have their syndication feeds as an XML icon. The XML icon is easy to find, and its behavior is easy to learn. NewsGator lets me right-click on any XML icon and choose "subscribe."
But, I know these points will cause violent disagreements. So, let me have it! What do you think?
Great new resources for TabletPC developers:
Additional Tablet PC developer resources can be found at:
eWeek: Microsoft playing nicer with ISVs, Microsoft exec says. Charles Fitzgerald, the exec mentioned in that article, works right around the corner from me.
So, how are we doing? If you're an ISV, how can we make your lives easier?
You might wonder why I've slowed down blogging in the past week. For a couple of reasons. One, we doubled the number of videos posted over on Channel9. Second, I've been spending a lot of time telling people inside Microsoft how (and why) they should be building RSS features into their products.
This is frustrating, tough, and tiring work. You ever tell off an architect in front of a vice president? I have this past week. It's earned me a title of "arrogant RSS jerk" from some, I hear.
While doing this work I've gone back to the conversations I've had with Alan Cooper back in the 1990s. I was in a small group of people who would meet with him and talk with him about the ideas he had that later turned into his book About Face.
Alan is a God. Yes, upper case "G."
Anyway, one of the things Alan taught me is how to use personas to think through software design arguments. Here, watch how I use his persona idea to try to convince a software design engineer that an RSS news aggregator is going to be important. This is an unedited email I sent today.
I realize most techies want these features, but will most general end users really see the benefit of reading 1400+ web sites a day?
What benefit will this have to people that don't want to spend the whole day (or night) reading data off the web?
Let's assume you're a normal human being. Not me (no, I'm not normal, deal with it).
Let's assume you're someone named Rebecca Krolander. 49-year-old mother of three kids (23m, 18f, 16m). Has strong ties to 15 family members, with moderate ties to about 50 others (her 23-year-old just had a wedding where 100 people showed up, about half of which were family connections). Of these family members, 10 already publish blogs occassionally (but she only cares about three of them, her son, a close friend, and an aunt she keeps in constant contact with).
Let's assume Rebecca likes sewing/quilting. She has three sewing community sites she watches for new patterns to load into her new digital sewing machine (serious, I met a 49-year-old woman last weekend that does just that). She also wants to keep up on the news, so she watches news.google.com and msnbc.com. She's also an executive at a bank, let's say Wells Fargo, so she watches Quicken.com, and WellsFargo.com for financial info. Finally, she trades a bit on eBay and buys stuff on Amazon once a month.
So, let's see, that's how many sites?
2) Close friend
4) Sewing site
5) Sewing site
6) Sewing site
7) Wells Fargo
12) Google News
Of all these sites, 10 could be available in RSS (Amazon and eBay can make quite a bit of info available in RSS, but actual transactions with these sites needs a browser).So, let's say that's 10 sites.Now, what happens when you use a browser? You need to visit all 10 sites every single day if you want to be kept up to date. That's good for the news sites, cause they change every day, but what about the personal sites and the sewing sites she wants to watch? They only change once a week, maybe (if Eric Rudder was one of the sites she watches she'd get really pissed if she loaded that site up every day and it only changed once a quarter).What if she wants to forward around stuff, or put it on her own blog? RSS is a lot easier to deal with.What if she wants to archive it on her hard drive so she can read it offline? RSS wins there too. What if she wants to view it in a non-browser context? RSS wins there too. She's a busy person. Reading in RSS would save her a lot of time (many minutes every day). Are you saying such a person wouldn't see the advantage to reading RSS? --Robert Scoble
How do you use personas in your software development?
On a day when Bill Gates tells his CEO friends that blogs and RSS are cool, it seems appropriate to link to Dare Obasanjo's "history of blogging at Microsoft" post. Joshua Allen deserves the credit for being the first Microsoft blogger. He took a lot of hard knocks changing Microsoft's culture. Now it's popular to blog at Microsoft (and approved by our top execs). Three years ago that wasn't true at all. It's funny, I remember telling Joshua he was "the face of evil" -- it's interesting how tables have turned. Thanks Joshua!
Here's the relevant links about Gates talk today:
Mary Jo Foley: Gates pushes 'power to the people' message.
Reuters: Microsoft's Gates touts blogging as business tool.
Transcript and slides from Gates speech today (look for the Channel9 slide!)
Guardian: It's the human touch that slicker official communications can't match.
Seattle PI: Gates touts the merits of blogs in speech to CEOs
Oh, and BillG: when you gonna blog?